The Rubbish Cabinet

A beer bottle…. broken;…. canned fish…. biscuit boxes… glass jar fragments…. many, many bags… a water can….. a 50 metters long cable… some enigmatic light bulbs… a broken TV!?!  This is what I found last year, on 25 september 2010, on a Saturday, at “Let’s Do It, Romania!” (1), when I, my twin brother, my collegues from class 8C and the mathemathics teacher went, along other 200.000 volunteers, to clean the land of our beloved nation!

This year, on 24 september, another Saturday, this thing is going to happen again. Last year, 1% of our country’s population went to the “national cleaning”. This year, the initiators hope to be 500.000 volunteers, which means 2,5% of the country’s population. This procent seems very small, taking into account how much tons of garbage are being left by romanians in the middle of nature! In 2010, 600.000 garbage sacs were collected. If the proportion is kept, this year 1.500.000 sacs of garbage would be raised. And yet, is it enough>

The evolution of the project must be, of course, followed. In 2012, there may be 2 millions volunteers, in 2013, 6 millions, in 2014, 20 millions. And yet, after all, a limit may be reached: those that clean will, surely, stop throwing garbage everywhere, but those for which nature is just a huge landfill will keep their “holly faith”. And if so, and forgive me for this pessimistic opinion, the number of volunteers may decrease and the project will become a formal one. What we must do is change entirely the mentality of the populaton!

There was a time when man lived in harmony with nature. He hunted animals, cooked them at fire, ate the meat, wore his skin, but never threw anything, because he respected the animal he just killed so that he could live. But when humanity had the strenght to subjugate all animals and plants around him, man was no longer part of nature, but the master of nature. The first signal came not when the hundredth tree fell, but when the hundredth forest was cut for fuel. As time passed, the coal of the modern age appeared and then the oil of the twentieth century.

And, at the end, we reach the exaggerated consumption of our days, which appeared after the Second World War, when the neocapitalists of the United States “invented” a new way of life, which we all know. In the present, this is the greatest barrier between human and nature. And now, we can talk about the garbage from our contry (Romania) after the fall of comunism during the 1989 Revolution and the global waste after the 50s, whose existance I find a simple motivation: we throw everything we use, from orange peels and plum kernels to yogurt cases, champaign bottels and broken electrocasnic devices. Maybe you will ask me: “But what to do with them”. I will answer like this: “Give them back to nature!”.

My grandfather’s brothers, Ispas and Marin Mitroi, lived at the farmland. They didn’t throw ANYTHING! Every “natural” rest came back to where it belonged: in nature. Regarding the “artificial” rests, let me tell you a story… In the 80s, Ionel Mitroi, another of my grandfather’s brothers, visited his son, Emil, emigrant in Western Germany, part of the “occidental world”, in contrast to the “communist world”, Eastern Europe, which at the end of World War II fell under the influence of the Soviet Union. As every romanian knows, during the communist regime, in our contry you wouldn’t find the beautiful packages from the present. As my mother told me, people came to the magasin with a class jar and it was filled with what you bought – milk, yogurt, cream, honey, marmalade, etc.; and as about seeds or cereals, this were taken by a paper bag, and the cheese or meat were taken into a simple paper. Plastic bags didn’t exist!

Well, imagine Ionel at Emil’s home in Saarbrücken, Germany; he sits in the living room, on a chair, eats a Sana yogurt and goes to the kitchen. Emil thinks that his father goes to throw the package but then, he hears the sink water flowing. Then, Ionel gets out of the kitchen, with that package in his hand, washed and cleaned, and puts it into the cabinet. “What are you doing, father, why don’t you throw it?”, Emil asks. “What? Why throw it? Wasn’t it produced?”. “It’s consumable, father, you don’t keep it.”. “What are you saying, son? Look how beautiful and colorful it is. I imagine how many hours have the manufacturers spent in order to make it. I can’t throw it!”. I will also tell you that, after his father’s departure, Emil had a cabinet filled with rubbish: biscuit boxes, butter packages, yogurt cases, cans and so on. Ionel didn’t throw anything, but not because he was a poor man. Actually, he was pretty rich (in the limit of richness in a comunist state), he was administrator of a football stadium and never had problems with money. Pure and simple, this is the way he throught it was normal to behave with packages.  

If we would all do like Ionel, events like “Let’s do it!” wouldn’t be necessary in the world. What I want to say is that it is more simple to throw less than clean after that the garbage, tons of wates, even if it is at the landfill or at edge of a forest. But what is the solution? With natural rests it is easy: most of them can be buried in the earth, absorbed and make the soil richer. But what do you do with artificial rests, collected after consuming a product made in great quantities? Recycling is one of the solutions, but Romania is at the back of Europe’s best recycling state list. And this is why we have to go clean our garbage…..  

A solution waits to be found. If it wants to have a future, the human society must have a “Blue Economy”, follow Gunter Pauli’s proposals, save everything, waste nothing, and the gain is great: a clean planet. Still, until such a system will come into function, no one will give me the cheese into the sac I brought from home or empty a Zuzu milk bottle into my glass jar because they have nothing to gain from this: the supermarket wants you to buy their low-quality plastic bags! This is why I regret that, althrough we know what we have to do, no individual can do this alone. After all, we can’t do all like Ionel, because we would feel our house with rubbish. In the end, I tell you with sadness that Emil never had the chance to reuse any of ther “garbage” from the rubbish cabinet filled by his father… but he didn’t have to: he recycled them! 

(1) Event inspired by the “Let’s Do It, World!” Initiative, started by Estonia in 2008, where 50.000 people came together to clean up 10.000 tons of illegal garbage, in 5 hours, during a single day! During the present, “Let’s Do It” is a civic movement which spread in Lithuania, Portugal, India, Slovenia, Serbia, Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, Cambodia, Russia, Hungary and Brazil. More cleanups are being prepared for the following years



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